The Three Prevailing Millennium Views in Revelation

 

Revelation chapter twenty is about the three main views of the Millennium: Post-millennium/Postmillennial, Pre-millennium/Premillennial, and Am-millennium/Amillennial (see background article) that intersect into the four views. Chapters twenty-one and twenty-two deal with the literal versus the non-literal interpretation of Scripture. Each of the four views takes various positions within each of these millennia views.  

This passage starts the millennial viewpoints. Most theologians in Church history from the early church fathers such as Augustine, and including the Reformers Calvin and Luther, saw this passage as metaphoric; “Amillennial” as in not a literal but symbolic interpretation. This is mainly because it is what the texts stated by the usage of the Jewish metaphoric words and genre. There have been some that have seen a future “premillennial” viewpoint such as Irenaeus, Justin Martyer, and most famous, Isaac Newton (there debate is whether this happens before or after Christ’s return; most see after). But, these people were not well schooled in biblical languages or well read in this subject. There is another group who are versed in biblical languages and well educated that takes a “postmillennial” view and include Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and Charles Finney (he was not well educated, not that education is that important, but gives one more tools to examine and more information to see what God has to say) that a millennial Kingdom would precede Jesus’ second coming. Hence, there was a lot of controversy in the mid-twentieth century when most people who wrote on this subject no longer looked to genres, historical background, original languages, or were just biblically illiterate, so all kinds of theories exist through to today. One example is not realizing that so much of this is dependent on the Old Testament metaphors used in places such as in Jeremiah. The main problem is that Christians divide over this, regarding their position as the solely correct and imminent one when Christ Himself told us in Matthew 24 what will happen and not to theorize or fret over it, just be prepared. That means to grow in faith in Him, not spend our energies in argumentation. Ironically, people who engage in vicious debate and fight over this only serve Satan and not Christ!  

The word millennium is a combination of two Latin words, mille, meaning a “thousand,” and annus, meaning a “year”. The debate is over if this is to be taken literally as 1,000 definite years, or interpreted metaphorically (as the language suggests), meaning a long, indeterminate period of time. There are three main popular views to this subject:   

Amillennialism: This millennium portrays the present reign of Christ, God’s kingdom, which will be followed by Christ’s second coming. The souls of the departed are with Christ in heaven. Most in this camp believe that after Christ’s final judgment, the new earth will be formed—His eternal, perfect kingdom. This is the most popular view from the Early Church Fathers, the Reformers, and most denominations today. They believe that Christ through His work, death, and resurrection defeated Satan and he is restricted, and bound in power and scope to allow the spread of the Gospel and the building of the Church. This view sees us now in the millennium. Many sensationalists today say this view is heresy, but it is not; it is within the scope of biblical theology as clearly defined by Scripture. Such sensationalists rarely read the Bible for what it says or in its context! This is also not an essential matter (Matt. 12:9; John 12:31; Col. 2:15; Rev. 17:8; 19:9)!

Premillennialism: We are living in a partial aspect of God’s kingdom which in time will become the great climax of Christ’s return when He will start His Kingdom full on, which says that the Second Coming of our Lord will take place before the millennium. Then, Jesus will literally reign on earth for a thousand years that will merge into the eternal kingdom, in an age of peace and righteousness on a new earth. 

Postmillennialism: This world will eventually all or mostly be converted to Christianity; then and only then will the millennium of a new earth filled with peace and prosperity begin. This view has Christ returning after the millennium, and we Christians in charge; it is up to us to engage this before His second coming. Then, Christ presides over the final judgment and eternity.

Just like the four views, Preterist, Futurist, Idealist and Historicist, all these views are also mostly read into the text. There is truth and error in each one, since Scripture does not teach any of them fully (see background article for more information). 

 

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Exegetical look into Revelation 20:4-6

 

  • ·Souls. Refers to those who have been martyred because they remained faithful to Christ or that these people are the most noble and worthy to receive reward. This does not mean other faithful Christians and saints are excluded or there is a second class or a second resurrection for the others. It also signifies suffering, being wronged, and persecution, but the application is that they remained true to the faith, regardless of circumstances. In context, this image indicates that the martyrs are like sacrifices, just as Christ was when he represented the Passover Lamb, innocent and undeserving, whose blood was shed. In Christ’s case, it was for our redemption; in the martyr’s case, it was seemingly in vain, but in reality, it glorified God (Phil. 2:6-11; Rev. 6: 9-10).
  • Beheaded. Rome would behead with a big ax its citizens who were deemed as criminals, as it was considered quick and painless as compared to being crucified. Of course, they were usually beaten first as Paul was on many occasions.
  • Rest of the dead. May refer to those who are “spiritually dead,” or the wicked, and not necessarily dead bodies.
  • The first resurrection. This perhaps refers to our “rapture” to meet Christ, meaning we are taken bodily to meet Him when He returns. The various theories of the rapture and end-times usually are not based on Scripture. “Rapture,” which is not even a biblical word, comes from the Latin to “meet in the air,” and simply means (from Biblical exegesis) to meet with Christ. It is not necessarily even up in the air, as that is a metaphor to meet as two warring parties would in the middle of a battlefield to discuss terms. The context and language suggests two resurrections, but this may refer more to a contrast between our bodily death and the second death, which is spiritual and eternal. Our physical is temporary; our soul is primarily more important. The theme of resurrection is our hope for today, because we are with and in Christ, our “being” is made for eternity. What matters most to God is our trust and faithfulness in Him, for which we are rewarded. This is more fully explored by Paul in Philippians, chapter 3 (Is. 65:20; Dan. 7:14-18; Amos 5:18; Matt. 19:28-30; 25:14-30; John 5:24-29; 1 Cor. 15:51-57; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23; 3; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 5:1-3; Rev. 6:9-10).
  • Second death. Refers to Hell and eternal damnation that as Christians we do not need to fear.

 ·Priests. In the Old Testament, this meant that all God’s people were holy to Him. Under law, there were specific roles in the priesthood that people were called and ordained to fill. Priests were to be bridges from God to man. Now, through Christ, we have direct, intimate access to Him, and in the future, each of us will reign with Him. Each of us is a royal priest as a representative of Christ (doctrine of the priesthood of all believers) on earth, and as ministers, we model His character and thus have no need for a Temple. God’s Kingdom is now; those who say the Temple must be reconstructed before Christ returns do not get this vital point (Ex. 19:1-6; 20:6; Lev. 10:10-11; Isa. 66:20; Matt. 21:43; 28:19-20; Rom. 15:16; 2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 2:1-10; Heb. 7; 10:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:1-10; Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21; 5:9-10; 20:4-6).

  • Reign with him. This means the reign of the faithful—God’s people—and our responsibility as we serve for and with Him

 

Exegetical look into Revelation 20:1-3

 

  • Abyss/bottomless pit means “very deep” (the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament word for bottomless). Jewish tradition saw this as a literal, subterranean place, used for the imprisonment of evil demons and Satan, who was actually on the earth. Angels were assigned to guard it and were given keys to it. Now, with our better understanding of science and biblical interpretation, most scholars see this as an extra dimension or residence; the exact locale we cannot fathom. John is using this vibrant imagery not necessarily to be a literal place we can go see, but rather to show that hell is real, Satan’s punishment is real, and demons are real. (Gen. 1:2; 7:11; Prov. 8:28; Luke 8:31; Rev. 9:1; 20:1).
  • Seized the dragon. The context shows us it is Satan. Literally meaning “serpent” or “sea monster” such as the leviathan, it symbolizes monstrous evil and Heracles and his battle with the hydra. A dragon is also a description of Satan who is the archenemy of God, a terrifying and destructive beast who seeks the total devastation of God’s people. Satan has been in rebellion against God since even before the fall of Man. He has been judged and will exchange his earthly throne for a bottomless pit, his finality rendering him powerless and bankrupt. This is a reference to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. It is also a description of Satan’s ways and strategies to lead the whole world astray (apocryphal book “Bell and the Dragon;” Gen. 3:1-15; Job 1-2; Psalm 74:13-15; 89:9-10; Is. 27:1; 30:7; 51:9; Ezek. 29:3; Matt. 25:41; Luke 10:18; 11:14-23; John 12:31; Col. 2:15; Rev. 12:3, 7-9; 13:2; 19:20; 20:2).  
  • Bound him refers to one’s power being suppressed or muted. Satan’s power and influence are constrained by God’s will and are under His judgment. The theme of imprisoned demons is seen in 1 Enoch and Tobit where they are evil and waiting trial before God. (Is. 24:21-22; Dan. 12:2; Matt. 27:62-66; 1 Cor. 6:1-3; 1 Tim. 5:21).
  • Reigned with Christ. Most people seem to read in what they think this should say and not what it actually says. Basically, it means we have peace and responsibility when we are in Christ (Matt. 10:33; 1 Cor. 6:2; 2 Tim. 2:12)!
  • Thousand years. A thousand years, or “ten one hundreds,” was a common Jewish and Greek metaphor for an age of peace. Plato used it too. Jewish usage of time is not usually literal; rather, it means ages or periods such as in Genesis 1. The word is Yom, and means a time period, not necessarily a literal day. Many futurists see this as the beginning of a new era, dispensation, or church age called the “millennium,” filled with prosperity and peace. This may be so, but this is not what the text is saying. It is saying that we have peace when we are in Christ! Some saw this as an intermediate state between death and the afterlife of heaven or hell. Also, in Jewish thinking, this was the messianic period or” travail,” from which comes the Amillennial view, as in the age of Christ or Christianity until He returns. The Catholics picked up on this for their theory of purgatory. Purgatory is not a biblical representation, but rather a Jewish cultural view, from which John draws his language to show us the main point of trusting in Christ, He is our “All in All” in and for all situations, that Paul explains in Romans 8 (Psalm 90:4; Is. 65:20; 1 Thess. 2:18; 1 Pet. 5:8).
  • Deceiving the nations. Refers to deception and false prophets that allure people away from logic, clear thinking, relying on God, and trusting in His Truth (Deut. 13:1-3; Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:9; Rev 13:14; 16:14; 19:20) 

 

Revelation 20:1-6

Introduction  

The Millennium! 

John now sees the angel coming from heaven with the keys to the bottomless pit attached to a heavy chain. Then, he takes control of the dragon, which is Satan, and imprisons him for a thousand years in the pit that he locks up. At this, Satan can no longer influence or deceive people and/or nations until his sentence is up. Afterward, Satan will be released for a short time, and then he will be rendered powerless. John sees thrones, with people sitting on them who have the authority to judge. We will reign as priests, serving Him for a thousand years. John sees those who have been martyred come to life—those who lost their heads and lives because of their faith in and testimony for Christ. They paid the ultimate cost for faith and preaching the Word of God. These people did not compromise their faith, and they did not worship what is false or accept his mark. They stayed loyal to Christ and to Christ alone. Because of their extraordinary faith, they were given new life and allowed to be resurrected first. Death holds no power or authority over those whose faith is in Christ. Those who are His do not need to fear death, for life in Christ is eternal.  

This passage echoes some of the themes of Genesis found in chapters one through three. Is this passage really about a Millennium or any of the three main views of the Millennium? The fact is, when you actually read the text in context, you will see there are far greater issues at stake. The rage of debate of a Millennium view is this: Is this passage literal or figurative? This is the crux of the debates on this passage and the founding of the three main millennial viewpoints. What are usually left out in these debates are the apocalyptic language structure and word meanings from the Old Testament prophets, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, chapters 37-48. Just knowing these two books clears up much of the debate. This passage is about how we can have real peace and contentment when we are in Christ! We also have the responsibility to produce faith and to be loyal. It also describes Satan, who was unable to prevent Christ’s incarnation and redemption, thus seeks to manipulate and destroy His followers. By knowing Satan’s fate, we can have trust in Christ and hope for our future. Satan cannot influence or deceive us outside of God’s will. His reign may be limited now, but at some point in time, He is completely neutered. 

What do you think life would look like in an age of peace or a in a Millennium when we will reign as priests, serving Him for a thousand (indeterminate amount) years? 

What does it take for you to stay loyal to Christ and to Christ alone? What gets in the way of your loyalty? What can you do to be more loyal to Him?

What does Revelation 11: 15-19 mean to us now?

 

Keep hope and Christ in mind, as well as the fact that God is understandable and approachable! In devastating times of stress and war, to fathom something such as the Temple or our Church being destroyed would make it seem that God had lost. But, the message here is that of victory. It is a call to trust in Him and continue our walk in faith. God is still in control and He does win. He allows things to happen as consequences for sin yet in His perfect plan, all things will come together to give Him glory (Psalm 2; Rom. 8). 

We are also shown that when all seems lost in our personal lives, when people and events come against God and His faithful, they really do not win. No enemy can do to us what God does not allow—nothing that could really, effectively, eternally hurt us. Those who do evil will be judged beyond what we could or would want to do to them. They get their deserved what is coming as we who are faithful get our reward. The key is to trust Him; be assured and confident that He is reigning and in control. 

These judgments are deserved. Do not mourn for those who are reprobates, who continually refuse to repent while dragging others down with them. These people want the judgment; they have begged for it by their refusal to reconcile to or recognize the Sovereign reign of our Lord and by their contradictory evil ways. They know better, but in spite of that, still sin. There is no sadness or grief on their part and there is none needed by those of us who are the faithful. The choice is before us; we can accept the love, forgiveness, and grace of our Lord or we can refuse. Next come natural consequences and justified judgments to those who are wicked, and the wonders of paradise to those who have received His election (Deut. 30:19). 

Questions to Ponder: 

  1. How vast and magnificent is God is in your life? What metaphors, language, or feelings do you have for God’s omniscience? Why is it is our duty to heed His voice and reverence Him?
  1. What happens when we read in what we think and not take careful time to see what the context, cultural considerations, and word meanings are? Do you think that some of these theories of end times would be utterly ridiculous to the original readers and Author? Why, or why not?
  1. When all seems lost and people and events come against you, how can you have greater perseverance? What about if you better realized that God, not all the evil, will win? What about that God will not allow any enemy to do anything to us that can really, effectively, eternally hurt us (Psalm 34:11-22)?
  1. When bad things happen, we naturally desire vengeance. How does the fact that those who do evil will be judged beyond what we could or would do to them help you to have assurance and confidence to trust God to judge, that you do not need to take matters in your own hands or go against the civil law?
  1. How can you have hope and faith that even with suffering and the consequences of sin, His perfect plan, that all things will come together to give Him glory, will come to fruition? What will you do to gain more hope and faithfulness for your life?

© 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.intothyword.org

The Four Main Views of Revelation 11: 15-19

 

The Preterist view: They see this passage as discords of the Roman war against Jerusalem, and the eventual downfall of Jerusalem from God because of civil and religious rebellion that already took place. Others see this as the story of the witnessing Church and the suffering and rejoicing it endured. The Kingdoms of the earth have become the kingdoms of God does not mean that everyone comes to Christ; rather, they see it as Rome sweeping away Jerusalem while in reality, the world still belongs to God and everything is in His control. Some see it referring to Christ’s ascension, that He is in control when we think He is not, and/or the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. Others see it as the introduction and importance of the Christian world and the fall of Judaism. The judging of the dead is seen as the final judgment when Christ appears and/or God’s revenge on those who are evil and the vindication of the faithful and those who suffered. The Temple being opened is seen as figurative; the real, important Temple is in heaven, not on earth, and will be revealed to us in time and/or it refers to God’s glory. The Lightning….hailstorm is seen as the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The kingdom of our Lord is seen as Christ’s dominion and rule. As the kingdoms of earth are swept away, His Kingdom always remains. Others see it as Christ’s ascension or the fifth kingdom spoken about in Daniel.  

The Futurist view: There are varying views in this camp, but most see this as the herald to Christ’s second coming. The trumpet is seen as proclaiming it is here, the second coming. This view is contradictory for them, as most in this camp believe the rapture took place in Rev. 4:1 which is prior to these events (even though there is no Scriptural support for such a premillennial view). Thus, some see this trumpet as the end of the Millennium, which would contradict their theories on the coming chapters. Some see verse 18 as the accumulation of the entire Millennium. The Kingdoms of the earth is seen as a problem and discrepancy in their chronology, and thus, many speculative views, such as associating it with chapter 20 and the millennial reign, or seeing it as meaning that the earth is no longer under the control of people. The judging of the dead is also out of their sequence, because they teach a rapture that has already occurred; this happened prior to the Tribulation (neither are evident in the text). The common response is that after the tribulation, people come to Christ and this passage is talking about these people. 

The Idealist view: They see the Trumpet as God’s reign on earth and His eternal nature. The judging of the dead is seen as the stubborn and unyielding world versus the faithful and what Christ offers. This passage is also an interlude of praise to God and the Ark; lighting is seen as a metaphor for God’s faithfulness and His promises, as well as a display of God’s “artillery,” His power and control. 

The Historicist view: The trumpet is seen as the end of the age of papal interdiction and persecution of the faithful, and the treaty with the Turks in 1699.  The Temple is seen spiritually because it no longer exists. Others see the trumpet as the end of the first series of visions of John, demonstrated by praise, rejoicing, and worship. Others see this as the rejoicing of the journey’s end for the Church as the final judgment and close of the Church Age commences. Still others see this as the victory of Christ over the apostate Church, and some, the vindication of the faithful through times of trials and sufferings. Some see this as the beginnings of the French and/or American Revolution, while others say this has not happened yet. The earthquake is seen as the political upheavals that happened after the Reformation.

Exegetical look into Revelation 11: 15-19

  • Sounded his trumpet refers to the arrival or accession of something or someone great, such as a king (1 Kings 1:34; Rev. 9:13). 
  • The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord. In John’s time, governments were worldly dominated kingdoms within kingdoms. The Jewish mindset and hope in their time was that they would one day be handed over to God and His Kingdom. It is all about His timing (Ex. 15:18; Psalm 2:2; 10:16; Isa. 9:7; Dan. 7:13-18; Zech. 14:9; 1 Macc. 2:57).
  • Twenty-four elders. Elders refers to those with authority, God’s representatives who are called to declare and serve Him wholeheartedly and righteously. In the early Church, the number 24 meant the 12 Israelite tribes of the Old Testament and the 12 apostles. This also refers to the Church as triumphant, and the entirety of all believers—the sum total of the Church. This can also refer to angelic beings who are also worshipping God (Rev. 9-11; 5:5-14; 7:11-17; 11:16-18; 14:3; 19:4). (see Rev. 4: 1-5 study for more info). 
  • The One who is and who was. God is the beginning and the end. This term refers to His sovereignty as He rules over all humanity at all times. Some see this as the start of the reign of Christ on earth; however, the text does not support that theory (Rev. 1:4, 8; 4:8).
  • You have taken your great power. This does not mean God was not in control before or had not exercised His power. Rather, the acknowledgment of His present rule is already a “given” in Jewish thought. This is celebrating His future rule over all nations and our participation in it as His faithful (Psalm 2).
  • The nations were angry may refer to their panic and/or how corrupting was their sin. It is interesting to note that they are not afraid but angry, typical of rationalization, defiance, and preponderance of sin. It is always foolish to fight against God (Psalm 48:4).
  • Your wrath/anger points to the Judgment that is coming (Joel 2:11; Mal. 3:2). God’s wrath and righteousness are a reality. However, Christ covers our sin for us (Zeph. 1:14-18; Nahum 1:6; Mal. 3:2; Rom. 1:18; 3:9-23; 6:23; Rev.19:15). We have hope and assurance when our trust is in Christ. He is our hope, even when the very foundations of the universe are collapsing around and under us. When our hope is in Christ, nothing can shake us (Luke 12:32-34; 1 Cor. 7:29-31; Heb. 12:25-29; Rev. 14:10-11; 16:15-21; 20:8-15).
  • Your servants the prophets. Referencing Dan. 9:6, 10; Amos 3:7; Zech 1:6.
  • God’s Temple. This metaphor refers to God’s preeminence and/or where God dwells, not necessarily an actual corporeal structure (throne). Nor does it say that the Temple will be rebuilt. It is an image of the Old Testament Tabernacle where the copy of God’s Throne Room, made for His presence, was made known. In the Near East culture of John’s audience, this had an extra meaning that contrasts with the mockery against the two witnesses. God’s Temple contrasts the pretentious dignity and prestige of worldly ways with God’s supremacy and the actuality that He is seated on His Throne in eminence and power. Now, John sees the real heavenly version in a corporal state that shows God in an understandable and approachable manner, as God “condescends” to us and John. This means that God “descends” to our level to make Himself known; He lowers Himself—makes Himself accessible—and gives us insight according to our level of understanding so we can perceive Him from our aptitude to recognize what is otherwise incomprehensible (Ex. 24:9-11; 25 (25:40)-40; 1 Kings 5-7; 22:19; 2 Chron. 2-4; Is. 6; Ezek. 1; 10:1; Dan. 7:9-10; Heb. 8:5-6; 9:1-14; Rev. 3:12; 4:2; 7:15; 14:15-17; 15:5-16:1, 16:17; 21:22).
  • The ark of his covenant represents the presence of God, His faithfulness, and atonement in keeping the covenant He made with His people even when they disobeyed Him. This refers to the main Jewish icon, the box chest, made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold, which held the tablets of the Ten Commandments and was placed behind the sanctuary curtain in the inner sanctum where the presence of God dwelt. This image could also represent the Ark going to war. It went missing after Nebuzaradan (meaning: “the captain of the guard” who invaded and captured Jerusalem and destroyed the temple for Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:8-20; Jer. 39:11; 40:2-5). Here it is meant to display God’s dwelling and power and our reverence of Him. Now, it is Christ, who paid for our sin, with whom we have our covenant (Ex. 25:10-22; Lev 26:11-13; Duet 10:1-2; 2 Kings 25:8-10; Matt. 27:51; Heb. 9:23; 10:19-20; Rev. 3: 10-13; 4:6-8).
  • Lightning….hailstorm points to God’s supremacy and authority, the true God and His right of vengeance, His self-revelation, and His awesome majesty and power, and represents an important event, possibly the curse and plagues associated with mocking and disobeying God while worshipping the fake god, Zeus. It is our duty to heed His voice and reverence Him (Ex. 19:16-19; Job 37:5-6; Psalm 18:11-15; 77:18; Ezek. 1:4, 24; 43:2; Dan. 10:6; Heb. 12:18-29; Rev. 4:1-11; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18).